All great road trips start with great music. I’ve had a number of jobs which have given me hours and hours behind the wheel, sometimes driving all across North America, other times just driving around the province or the city. My current job doesn’t offer me the chance to travel so my driving is now recreational. Whether it’s commuting to work or just wasting fossil fuels with no destination in mind you can bet my iPod is there.
My method for determining the songs to write about was simple. Select the playlist from the iPod, put it on shuffle and write down the first ten songs to come up.
The playlist currently has 80 songs, totally about 5.5 hours. The random selection shows how varied my driving musical selections can be. We’ve got pop, rock, country. We’ve got Canadian, American and British bands. The songs represent five different decades. We’ve got songs that are completely road-related and others that have nothing to do with road trips.
On with the list!
1) Pour Some Sugar on Me – Def Leppard (1987)
Sure, it’s not a classic driving tune because it lacks any sort of road or traveling theme but the drum beat on this one means I need the cruise control set so I can keep both feet stomping along. Besides, it comes from the era where I was just starting high school and everyone knows songs from that era of your life are always the best. And, for good measure, in 2006 VH1 rated it as the second greatest song on the 80’s.
2) Take it Easy – The Eagles (1972)
In contrast to “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, this IS a classic driving tune with all the themes there. It starts with the great opening lyric “Well I’m running down the road trying to loosen my load, I’ve got seven women on my mind.” and carries on through the chorus with “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” It represents the driving you do when you’re driving to clear your mind (“Lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand”) and the freedom you experience when you’re out in the world and anything is possible. Which guy hasn’t wanted to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona just to see if there is a girl in a flatbed Ford there to take a look at you?
It also contains one of the lines which defines how I live my life: “We may lose or we may win but we will never be here again.”
3) Head Over Heels – Blue Rodeo (1993)
This needs to be the first song on the playlist when you head out early in the morning. “The sun breaks and I can’t wait ‘til I get on my way again.” It also works really great if you’re on the road and missing that someone special –- “Watching the rain through a crack in the window, it’s the little things that get you through, like the same sun rising on me is rising over you.”
Add the memorable lyrics and a tune that’s easy to sing with and you’ve got the makings of a great road trip song.
4) Drive My Car – The Beatles (1965)
Rubber Soul is one of the best albums The Beatles ever put together, and I’m not forgetting Sgt. Pepper when I say that. That opening riff hooks you and the cowbell drives the song forward throughout the course of the 2.5 minutes. It’s a catchy pop tune and the fact that it mentions cars and driving is merely a bonus. When I owned by old six-string guitar I would just sit and play the opening over and over again.
5) Animal Heart – Glass Tiger (1991)
Another song that has nothing to do with road trippin’ – it’s on the playlist purely because of the thundering guitar opening and the chorus is a lot of fun to scream along to – as long as no one is sitting next to you at a stoplight watching and mocking you, that is…
6) You Wreck Me – Tom Petty (1994)
When we saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2009 this is the song they opened with and it’s been on my list of favourites ever since. It was one of those songs which I somehow managed to miss when it was first released and only discovered years later. The drum beat reminds me of a locomotive driving down the tracks and this one is always good for getting above the posted speed limit. “Tonight we ride, right or wrong.”
Also, no matter what is happening in your life you can’t help but feel better when you think “Now and again, I get the feeling, well if I don’t win I’m a gonna break even.”
I also have to admit that I really like the line about “I’ll be the boy in the corduroy pants. You’ll be the girl at the high school dance.” even though it just seems really odd. I guess it takes me back to my younger days and school dances, much the same way driving makes me feel young again too.
7) Behind These Hazel Eyes – Kelly Clarkson (2004)
Don’t judge me for this one. I’ve never even watched a full episode of American Idol. It’s a catchy tune, it has a good beat and it’s great to drive to. What more can I say?
8) The Kid is Hot Tonight – Loverboy (1980)
Another one where the guitar and drums just hit you smack in the face from the opening notes and just keep driving the whole time. This is a great song for driving in heavier traffic that is flowing fast such as an Interstate – passing cars, changing lanes you can’t help but think “Damn, I’m hot tonight!”
9) Jet Airliner – The Steve Miller Band (1977)
Sure, it’s about traveling by plane not car, but who says road trippin’ is limited to land-based modes of transportation? This one is all about getting away from your home and how, even when you leave, you never forget where it is you came from. Life’s an adventure and you have to get out there and experience it.
“Goodbye to all my friends at home
Goodbye to people I’ve trusted.
I’ve got to go out and make my way
I might get rich, you know I might get busted.”
10) On The Road – Lee Roy Parnell (1993)
My playlist has a fair amount of country music, but this was the only pure country song to show up in this random selection. There are great stories contained in this one, from the “sad young wife who never had a life” to the teenager in the hotrod Chevy to the retired couple in the Airstream. They’re all on the road for different reasons just as everyone in life has their own story and their own road to follow.
Whenever I think about the teenager putting his favourite cassette it makes me think how we lost something when we switched to digital songs from physical media. There was something magical about sliding a cassette into your dashboard and hearing those few seconds of hissing before the music would start.
For the full effect of this one, you need to be driving a highway at night. Then just sit back in the seat and let Lee Roy’s amazing slide guitar work carry you to your destination. The chorus sums up my road trip experience perfectly:
“On the road where the night is black,
On the road where you don’t look back.
There’s a white line in the distance,
Where’s it’s going nobody knows.
If it’s anywhere you’ll find it
On the road.”